Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016



in Gun Violence/U.S. by

My children play
the Quiet Game.

My elder daughter,
whose magic tricks
still require us
to look the other way,

is teaching her smaller sister
to fold into a closet
and be silent as the dead.
“Pretend there’s a bad guy,”

she says, “with a gun.”


In the dark I dream a trap,
and then, an escape
from one danger to another—

barefoot through snowbanks
into the mountain town,
to ask for help—
but find myself outcast.

When somehow I return,
to confront my captor,
I feel the Glock in my hands,
much more solid than hope.


In the morning, dewfall.
In the morning, blood.

My town is half-masted,
and we step into our tired roles:

Police with adrenaline
coppering their breath.
The desperate medics.
The wounded, grief-wounded,
the heavy dead.

We are the watchers.
The politicians perform the liturgy
for us on television.

This is call-and-response:
each question answered
with another question.

Their flag pins and grave faces
help us know they are sincere.
They wash their hands.
We wash our hands, too.

The largest flagpole in town
stands in front of the truckstop.
It’s bare today, an obelisk,
bone white.
It seems respectful.

It seems like raising
its bright banner again
is a kind of magic
requiring us all
to look the other way.



Tammy Bendetti is a tiny, loud, queer poet living in Colorado with her husband and children. Lithic Press published her first chapbook, Poison in Small Doses, in 2018.

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